6 Tips to Design the Best Learning Environments for Your Child
Fall is nearly upon us, and right now you have an opportunity for a fresh start in organizing your homeschooling. An often overlooked aspect of this organization, though, is your children’s learning environments. Designing an environment in which your child can focus is one of the most important things you can do to promote his or her success.
Many students require different kinds of learning environments, though. There is no right way to learn. It’s important to figure out which learning environments work for each student’s learning style. As Cynthia Tobias explains in her book, The Way They Learn, allowing students to create different learning environments for themselves can also be a big step towards helping them to be motivated and focused.
I passionately believe that God has created each of us in His own image, and also that we do not all reflect that image in the same way. It makes sense to me that we should honor those differences that God created in us, and that doing so has an immediate impact on how we support students in their learning. If all students are created differently, they may very well thrive in wildly different learning environments.
Here are the six factors that Tobias credits for playing a significant role for learning environments and homeschool organization practices:
The traditional ideal for learning environments is a seat (not too hard and not too soft) at a desk or table. For many learners, this is a good way to achieve focus. I can also tell you from personal experience that this is not true for everyone. If I am sitting in a stationary chair at a table, I invariably find myself fidgeting and distracted. Tobias herself states that her preference is to work while sitting on the floor.
I have a friend who needs absolute silence in order to work. In college, it was torture for her if someone noisier than she invaded the quiet section of the university library. On the other end of the spectrum, I find it much easier to focus when I can listen to music at a low volume through headphones. This seems unbelievable to many people I know. The radical idea that Tobias suggests (which is based in research), is that one noise level is not better than another, it only creates better learning environments for individual learners.
We’ve all been told that reading with bad light will damage our eyes, and I’m not going to argue against that. However, the quality of light can be an important factor. For some students, it is preferable to have less bright “soft light,” and those students may find harsh light to be distracting. Some students appreciate natural light. Some students don’t care. Once again, it depends on the individual student.
This factor is highly tied to students’ physical comfort level. When I was growing up my mother spent a lot of time sitting in bed with a lap-desk because she gets cold easily. On the other hand, a coworker of mine gets overheated very quickly, and that is more distracting to her than almost anything else.
Food and Drink
Most public schools have a hard rule: no food and drink in the classroom (which I suspect has as much to do with potential for messes as anything else). At the same time, we all know how difficult it is to concentrate while hungry. Wouldn’t it be more useful just to allow students a few snacks or, for those who are distracted by eating like me, at least a beverage?
Internal Time Clock
My mother has always said that she thinks my brother would have done better in school if he could have started his day around noon. Allowing a night-owl student to do school work in the evenings may sound risky, but what if it works? What about students who need to take frequent breaks? Some people like to work in burst of high activity, while others like to remain “in the zone” for longer periods of time.
As you work on homeschool organization, my suggestion is to be intentional about creating learning environments, and to allow your student(s) to be part of the decision making process. If your student suggests something that seems strange or impractical to you, allow for the possibility that it might be effective for him or her. For those situations, Cynthia Tobias suggests giving the idea a two week trial. Make a deal with the student that if he or she can achieve an effective study pattern within his or her chosen learning environments in that time, it may be allowed to continue. If not, he or she will need to try it a different way. It may be worth a try.
Does your student thrive in unusual learning environments? Please share your creative ideas for accommodating your child’s learning style in the comments.
Taking on the responsibility for educating your child in your own home with a Christian worldview can also be a lot simpler. Enlightium Academy wants to partner with you in educating your child. We are a fully accredited online Christian school that offers students the opportunity to be schooled at home, in their own learning environment, with one-on-one teacher support, while working at their own pace through an award-winning curriculum.